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Letter from an alumnus about Faculty na•ve about war

This letter concerns the hate-filled letters in the Nov. 3 PAW directed at my fellow classmate and NROTC member Donald Rumsfeld ’54.

Ironically, the most vituperative tirade was voiced by a professor of the Woodrow Wilson School, which was just getting off the ground when my class entered Princeton, ballyhooed as what now would be called a “think-tank” capable of advising our government leaders on how to solve international problems. Since the end of the 1950s, however, I haven’t heard much in the way of praise for the efforts of anyone from that school. Can anyone guess why?

The secretary and I entered Princeton in 1950. We had applied for and been accepted into the NROTC regular program. This meant that we would trade a minimum of two years in the regular Navy as an officer for a four-year college degree. The NROTC also had another program that required one year of commissioned service on active duty as a reserve officer.

When our NROTC class reported to for the first time, the officer in charge said our scholarships and participation in the program would be nullified if we did not sign new contracts at once, adding a third year of active duty to our two, and a second year in the reserves. Without blinking an eye, everyone signed the new contracts. This was a good reflection of the spirit of young men on campus then.

Most in our class were born at the height of the Great Depression. We heard about the terrible things that Germany, the Soviet Union, the Japanese, and the Italians were doing. We understood the terrible things the Soviets were doing after World War II, both in conquering Eastern Europe and in instigating the same kinds of revolutions and other mayhem that current terrorists have been carrying out. The Cold War is dead but other dissident groups have taken the place of the Soviets. Mr. Rumsfeld explained this at numerous meetings with members of the media, most of whom were more intent upon getting liberal Democrats back in power than to pay attention. It’s too bad that professors and graduates of universities like Princeton have not grasped how such enemies have to be defeated and why.

It was obvious that the Abu Ghraib prison incident was a stupid series of pranks and demonstrations of petty power by petty people working a boring shift, with no real supervision on the after-midnight shift. When I heard there were photos and DVDs of the antics sent by the soldiers to their buddies in the States, I knew that was all it was. The facts proved that to be the case, and all the guilty parties were immediately investigated, tried, convicted, and punished. No secret top-level scheme by the Secretary.

The same was true with the story of the looting of hundreds of tons of explosives by the Iraqi dissidents. Obviously, whatever was in the storage dumps had been moved before our troops got there, just like the aircraft buried in the desert, the missiles hidden in the warehouse basement flooring, the thousands of chemical and biological warfare protective suits sealed up in abandoned school rooms. Education implies: Don’t be na•ve.

John A. Pfeifer ’54
Bay Village, Ohio

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Reference the letter to the editor in your Nov. 3 PAW by Professor Reinhardt. If this opinion is typical of many Princeton professors, I feel current students cannot help being given a bad example of educational values.

Professor Reinhardt may not like the Bush administration, but he has no idea what Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ’54 is doing in the defense department. His intemperate remarks only parrot the New York Times and other biased media that do not know either. For example, last July, New York Times’ “embedded” reporters wrote stories concerning how they were too scared to even leave the green zone in Baghdad.

Secretary Rumsfeld should be given credit for taking on the three armed services, particularly the Army, which did not want change from the Cold War days. He is doing this right now, while also helping to teach the Army how to fight a new type of war.

Henry E. Payne III ’60 p’84
Vero Beach, Fla.

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